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INTERVIEW: Players with different positions and different roles on the court need different forms of practice, according to a Danish study presented at the EHF Scientific Conference in November

Differentiation is the future in handball training

“It was about time we moved on,” says Lars Bojsen Michalsik when he reflects on handball training in the 1980s.

Michalsik was a left wing with several Danish clubs and he won the domestic championship with Copenhagen-based HIK in 1986.

“In my days as a player, our physical training typically consisted of a little weight lifting and a little running, and then we hoped to benefit from that,” he says.

Meanwhile, Michalsik knows better.

The lecturer at EHF Master Coach courses has been doing scientific research for more than 10 years, leading to the conclusion that handball players need to be trained differently and according to their positions and roles on the court.

This will also be the theme for one his contributions to the EHF Scientific Conference which will take place in Vienna on 17 and 18 November. A registration to the conference is still possible.

“For instance, my research has shown that line players have to be big and strong, and that they enter into considerably more physical confrontations than wings for instance,” Michalsik says.

“This obviously means that the physical training of line players needs to differ from the training you give wings.”

Michalsik is also working for the Danish Handball Federation and has been assisting several clubs and national teams as a physical coach.

The experience from his work as a physical coach for the women’s national team of Brazil before and during the 2016 Rio Olympics is the basis for his contribution “Physical Preparation of a World Class Female Handball Team for the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 on Home Ground.”

Challenging work conditions

His idea of differentiation in training was key when working with the Brazilian team.

“However, apart from the last training camps ahead of the Olympic tournament, we only had few opportunities to gather the players as 80 to 90 percent of them play at European clubs,” Michalsik says.

“We arranged some training in Vienna thanks to an agreement with Hypo Niederösterreich, which have had many Brazilian players in their squad in the past.”

The working conditions were also challenging in another way.

“The players were used to all different kinds of physical training from their clubs. And furthermore, a club does not always have the same objectives as a national team,” he says. “A club coach will often want his players to peak at different times of the season than a national team coach.”

Effective right away

Still, Michalsik’s training method proved to be effective right away.

“In our first match at the Olympics, we were up against the possibly best physically trained female handball team in the world – Norway. We were a bit cautious but we defeated them by three goals after being up by seven,” he says.

Brazil added a 26:13 victory over Romania in their second match.

“They simply could not get through our defence,” Michalsik recalls. “As a team, it was obvious that we had become much stronger physically. The players also felt that their individual physical strength had improved considerably.”

For Michalsik, his own playing career is a big advantage in his current work.

“My experience as a handball player enables me to see at once when I watch a game if the physical training works as intended. A physical coach with a background from athletics or fitness will not be able to judge the outcome in the same way,” he says.

Michalsik favours physical coaches with a handball background, and recommends to integrate physical coaches more in the daily training.

“A physical coach with a background in, let’s say, fitness who visits the club once or twice a week cannot possibly have the same insight as someone who is with the players on a daily basis.”


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew / ts